Moving Target – Nuno Espírito Santo

6 Min Read

Tottenham Hotspur finally ended their long hunt for a new manager after appointing Nuno Espírito Santo as head coach.

Arriving on a two-year deal, the ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers boss replaces José Mourinho and brings in Ian Cathro (assistant head-coach), Rui Barbosa (goalkeeping coach) and Antonio Dias (fitness coach) as part of a backroom staff reshuffle.

In an interview with the club’s official website, the new managing director Fabio Paratici explained the reasons behind the decision to appoint the 47-year-old:

“First of all, we appointed Nuno because we have to be logical in our choice, so we needed a coach who respects our key points that we have in our minds. Our key points for this season would be to come back to discipline, to work physically hard, to develop our players, our young players and Nuno is very good in this job.

He did a fantastic job at Wolverhampton in the last four years, developed a lot of young players and we have to remember players like Pedro Neto, Diogo Jota, Adama Traoré and Raúl Jiménez, attacking players who were not so famous before coming to Wolverhampton.

Also, he adapted a lot of players for his system. Before Wolverhampton, he was in Porto and played another system, 4-4-2, and in Valencia he played 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, so he has this kind of open mind about different systems and players, which is one of the reasons that we chose him.”

It’s a decision that has not gone down especially well with the club’s fanbase, but can Nuno’s appointment help galvanise Spurs, and what are the implications for Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers?

We’ll attempt to answer those questions in this Moving Target report.


Born in São Tomé in Portugal, Nuno was a goalkeeper during his playing career and was part of the Porto squad that won the 2002/03 UEFA Cup and 2003/04 UEFA Champions League under Mourinho.

After retiring in the summer of 2010, he worked in backroom roles at Málaga CF and Panathinaikos, before being named as manager of Portuguese side Rio Ave in 2012. In his second season in charge, they were finalists in both domestic cup competitions and qualified for the UEFA Europa League for the first time in their history.

In 2014, Nuno moved to Valencia where he delivered a fourth-place finish and qualified for the UEFA Champions League. He then spent a season at Porto before moving to England and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

His first season at Molineux was a real triumph as he led the club to promotion and the Championship title. He then guided Wolves to a seventh-place Premier League finish in the 2018/19 season, and repeated the feat in 2019/20 while also reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League.

Despite a solid start to 2020/21, last season was a forgettable one for Wolves. Injuries, a lack of squad depth and fatigue meant that they were unable to find any real consistency, and as a result Nuno left the club by mutual consent in May.


Win rate38%

Given the underlying data, last season’s 13th place finish felt about right.

While the defence did perhaps look a little less assured than in previous seasons, they ranked mid-table in most of the key defensive metrics:

TotalRank v other Premier League sides
Goals conceded5212th
Shots conceded44210th
Shots on target conceded1529th
Big chances conceded7210th=
Expected goals conceded (xGC)49.819th

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